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The Piedmont Highlander

The Piedmont Highlander

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April 18, 2024

Student Mental Health

Maisy Richardson


  We must stop comparing ourselves to our classmates; stop enrolling in courses we are not prepared for; stop taking classes just because they are weighted in order to prioritize  our mental health.

  As soon as I step on campus, I feel stress loitering in the air, infecting student after student. But the source of this contagion is not “hard-grading” or “impossible tests” – it is the constant comparisons peers make against each other. 

  Students sign up for weighted classes, regardless of their interest in the course or preparation. A fear of being labeled  “not smart” if they take non-weighted courses leads students to take classes they are not prepared for. 

  During my sophomore year, I saw this firsthand. When I took Honors Chemistry, I think most of my classmates were out of their depth, taking it because they had been told to by their peers. It was common for my tablemates to fail tests, relying on classwork completion to pass. Yet, I remember many of the same students that were struggling to pass Honors Chemistry made snide comments about the supposed stupidity of regular Chemistry students, who I believe made smarter decisions, making a choice based on their interests and strengths. 

  This year, I know the cycle will continue; there are four sections of honors compared to two sections of regular Chemistry. 

  Moreover, I constantly hear students comparing their test results.

  According to an article written by Psychology Today, “comparisons can be harmful when they leave you feeling chronically inferior or depressed.”

  I know this rings true for PHS. Every time someone compares their test grades, another leaves feeling inadequate, causing students to focus more on beating their classmates than on learning.

  Additionally, I constantly see students sign up for classes solely because they are weighted, focusing on their resume rather than their interest. 

  I enjoyed my AP Environmental Science class, but I witnessed many students were unengaged – not studying for tests or doing homework. These students, who were uninterested in learning the material, could have switched out and taken a different class that was more engaging to them.

  Understandably, students take AP heavy course loads to demonstrate college readiness. But is it worth sacrificing mental health for this process? 

  Also, loading on AP courses does not demonstrate superior college readiness. According to an article written by a College Board official on Education Weekly, “taking one or two AP classes at most per year of high school optimizes the type of college readiness that comes from taking that type of challenging class.”

  I believe the best thing someone can do for their education and mental health is to stop caring about others and focus on oneself.

  I have adopted this approach the past two years, while I have maintained a weighted heavy schedule, and I am always interested in the work I do. I keep learning more, am less stressed, and happier because I take what I am interested in and what is best for me.

  One person’s test scores or schedule is no way to evaluate another’s. Take hard classes and challenge yourself. But, do it on your own terms. 

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About the Contributor
Axel Saldanha
Axel Saldanha, Sports Editor
Axel Saldanha (12) is a sports co-editor for the TPH. Growing up in an active household, Axel enjoys spending his free time outdoors hiking, skiing, mountain biking, fishing, and backpacking. Axel is very interested in both history and biology and spends a lot of his free evenings educating himself about both.
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